Rising Through Resilience: Susan Scott of Life Inspired On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

--

Set your goals around things you can control. My mistake was putting my future hopes in the hands of my family member. I obviously had no control over their ultimate decision. Resilient people set goals around things within their locus of control, things like building successful habits and attitudes. Those kinds of personal growth goals serve as a solid ground to stand on when chaos hits. The staff at the resource center had a goal setting session where I had them all set goals for the kinds of self-improvement habits they could implement each and every week.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Scott, Life Inspired, Inc.

Susan Scott, AACC, is an author, counselor, professional leadership coach and founder of Life Inspired Inc. an organization dedicated to helping women break free from the limitations of their past to design a life they love. She has a master’s in counseling from Light University and has written, co-authored or contributed to 6 books. She is also trained in Critical Incident Stress Management helping first responders and victims of traumatic events find meaning and hope in the aftermath of trauma.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My childhood looked perfect from the outside. Traditional 2 parent household, low to middle income, living in the suburbs, outstanding student. Underneath all that normalcy was a girl with no self-esteem, a child who was taught she existed solely to make sure other people were happy. A young woman who learned she was not entitled to have her own opinions. At home I walked on eggshells for fear of upsetting dad. At school I learned to be invisible to avoid provoking the ire of the cool kids. Being me was simply not safe. For a long time I tried to adapt and fit in: get good grades, get a college degree, and find a job suitable for a woman in the 1980’s.

It turns out I make a terrible employee. The longest I ever lasted at a job was a 3 year stint at a grocery store while I put myself through college. By the time I was 26 I had worked 8 jobs and been fired from 2.

It was while homeschooling my kids I realized I was really good at understanding people and what made them tick. I studied psychology and neuroscience. I dug deep into how people learn and grow while I was helping my own children learn. Eventually I went back to school and got a masters in counseling.

I still wasn’t free from my past however. Instead of becoming a therapist and living as the person I knew I could be, I was still stuck in old beliefs about who I should be. When my husband and I were asked to step in and help a family member with their business, we agreed.

That position ended very badly as we’ll talk about later, but in a way it was freeing. I finally knew for sure there was no fulfillment in living my life simply to meet the expectations of other people. The seeds of Life Inspired Inc. was born out of my desire to help other women avoid the same trap. Ultimately the best use of our life is to pursue the things we were created to do, even if society, or family, wants us to be something else. Trying to get our sense of meaning and worth out of fulfilling the expectations of others is not only fruitless, it is a form of soul death. We end up sacrificing who we really are in order to fulfill the role someone else puts on us.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

One of my favorite corporate contracts was helping the staff at a community resource center. They were experiencing a 50% turnover rate every year. There was a lot of drama and interpersonal relationship issues.

A big part of the philosophy behind Life Inspired Inc. is helping women know who they are and what they have to contribute to the world. One of the processes we use is teaching people about personality types. Using a simplified personality test, I lead a fun workshop that is engaging and enjoyable.

At the end of the workshop with the resource center, the participants came away with a whole new perspective on what makes them unique, what motivates their behavior, and they grasped the innate strengths of their personality type. They also understood their co-workers better. With an increase in their own sense of worth, the staff was more open to seeing the worth in others.

When you understand your co-workers personality, its strengths and the differences in how other people view the world, it makes for powerful changes within the relationship dynamics. The end result for the resource center was a 90% drop in the turnover rate.

It was a vivid example of how empowering women with a greater sense of the value they bring to the world can completely change their trajectory.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Life Inspired, Inc. helps women get to the core stories and subconscious beliefs that impact how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and our place in it. That makes up our individual identity. It is the beliefs about our identity which trigger how we behave and how we respond to the world.

Helping women uncover those core identity beliefs is extremely effective in rooting out limiting beliefs that have been sabotaging their life. Once they clear up the limiting beliefs, my clients are ready to design a life aligned with who they really are.

One of my clients, Donna, was struggling in her role as a manager. She had been on staff at a manufacturing plant when she was promoted above her co-workers. Moving from friend to boss was hard for her and it was impacting her ability to be impartial when it came to enforcing company policies fairly. Donna went out of her way to nurture and support people to the point they were taking advantage of her, asking for favors like time off above and beyond what was allowable.

This was causing resentment among the rest of the staff. She spent many sleepless nights worrying about how her staff would respond any time she had to implement a new policy.

As we worked together looking for the old beliefs and stories that lay behind her behaviors, Donna realized something. She was the oldest child and only girl in her family. Much of her approval and validation as a child came from helping her mother with the younger kids. Still lingering in her subconscious was the belief she was only valuable as a person when she was taking care of others. It was playing out in her work relationships.

Discovering this hidden belief and being able to discard it means she is no longer as deeply impacted personally when her friends complain about company policies. She is much more resilient when people push back because her personal worth is no longer threatened when her staff is frustrated.

A foundational philosophy at Life Inspired Inc. is getting to the root of our identity issues so we can change dysfunctional behaviors being triggered by dysfunctional beliefs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Bullied terribly in high school, I had little sense of self-worth. Art class was my refuge. The art teacher, Mr. Coy was one of those people who is just naturally caring and kind. He saw and encouraged a potential in me when everyone else seemed to be tearing me down. At one point I won a commission to do a large painting for the school cafeteria. Mr. Coy not only mentored and encouraged my efforts, he gave me space to work and the materials I needed.

That tiny spark of humanity gave me hope. It was part of what led me to realize the power of helping people grow more resilient by discovering and nurturing their unique potential.

Last year we moved back to my home town and one day I happened to walk by an older man out in his yard. I realized it was Mr. Coy. I was able to spend some time sharing with him how much his support and encouragement mattered at such a difficult time in my life.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is the learned ability to separate who you are from what happens to you. Having a solid sense of yourself as a worthy individual means events can’t shake your foundation. People who lack resilience see circumstances as a reflection of their value as a person. When circumstances fall apart, so do they.

It is the kind of thinking that believes: “Because I got fired, I must be a loser.”

Resilience can be cultivated. It’s not always an innate characteristic. People who develop resilience have discovered what happens to them does not define who they are or limit their future. Resilient people are not tossed around by their emotions. They take charge of them, acknowledge what they are feeling but don’t let emotion determine their reality.

People who are resilient keep going when life is hard because their ultimate aim is not about having the perfect life circumstances, it is to be their best self regardless of circumstances.

It’s often thought of as a trait you need to move out of a difficult situation or to take action in the face of fear (which is courage, as you’ll see.) Resilience isn’t necessarily about moving forward. Sometimes it’s about acceptance, it’s about reframing an untenable situation and learning how to move with it instead of resisting or trying to move away from it.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

I believe resilience is directly tied to emotional intelligence. When you are emotionally aware, you are taking the time to evaluate where your emotional responses to circumstances are coming from. You can stand outside of your behavior, so to speak, and rationally look at what responses are serving your best interests and which are not.

Courage, on the other hand, is more associated with facing fear, with doing what is right regardless of the cost. Courage tends to come with a connotation of taking action, of conquering or overcoming a trial. There are situations that simply cannot be conquered, terminal cancer comes to mind. Even if you lack courage or the means to beat it, resilience allows you to continue to be your best you, regardless of what is happening.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

That’s an easy one! Nick Vujicic comes immediately to mind. He was born without arms or legs yet has overcome what we would call limitations, to become an impassioned, irrepressible, positive force for uplifting people. Nick’s childhood was one of impossible challenges and horrible periods of depression, but those dark times led him to lessons that he shares with millions of people around the world through his organization Life without Limbs. I chose him because he shines a light of hope for people in even the darkest of situations.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

The most obvious answer I can think of is when we stared homeschooling. This was back in 1997 before it became anywhere near as popular as it is now. Pretty much all of our family said it was ridiculous to think we could teach our children everything they need to know. This was even before the internet was available and homeschool curriculum options were extremely limited. We had to be a lot more resourceful back then.

Because my oldest was not a natural student, we pulled her from school determined to help her develop her unique potential. Homeschooling was really the start of my journey helping people to overcome limitations and discover who you were created to be. My daughter was never meant to sit in a classroom all day filling out workbooks. Not fitting into the mold of the ideal student does not make someone disabled nor dysfunctional. She is a gifted and compassionate people person. By providing the tools to discover and nurture her unique strengths, she learned in her own ways, graduated college and is in a people-helping career.

Determination is really a core motivator for building resilience. When we care deeply about something like educating our children, we find a way to make it work despite the obstacles. It is that determination which provides the fuel we need to build those resilience muscles.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Unfortunately, that’s another easy one. My husband and I spent almost 20 years working in a business with a family member. The plan, so we were told, was that eventually we would own the business and continue to pay a stipend to the family member as part of their retirement income.

All of our profits, future plans, and goals were invested in growing it into a thriving enterprise. One day shortly after all the business debts were paid off, our family member called us into a meeting and announced they were selling the business to someone else. This wasn’t a discussion about changing our initial agreement, it wasn’t about making the decision as a group. We were given a list of orders. We were told what we needed to do to prepare for the sale.

We had failed to do the most obvious, logical step when we joined the business — get everything in writing in a legal contract. We went into it initially because the business had been in the family for many years prior to our involvement. It was part of our heritage. There was never a moment’s thought it would ever be passed outside the family.

Because we didn’t have a legal leg to stand on all we could do was walk away. We had zero return on our investment of time and money.

Beyond the loss of our investment, it was exponentially harder to lose the identity. The business that had for so long represented who we were and the values we stood for, was now in the hands of strangers.

It took years, but we have recovered something more valuable — our identity as individuals separate from our circumstances. We were faced with a choice, live in bitter resentment for the rest of our lives, or look for the lesson and move on.

As devastating as it was, in many ways I am grateful. I now have a perspective on the world many people never come to. No matter what is happening around me, pandemic, job loss, financial setbacks, none of it rocks my world. I know my worth and my potential for the future cannot be changed by events. That is the heart of resilience.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Being bullied in school, as hard as it was at the time, actually served a useful purpose. When you are part of the in-crowd, your identity is formed by doing whatever everyone else is doing. You conform to the ideas, the lifestyle, the clothing styles and even the music preferences of your peer group.

Striving to fit in teaches us to find our acceptance in what others think about us. The only way to maintain that acceptance is to continue to please other people. The moment you fail to fit in, you are rejected.

When you are the outcast, you learn that although people can bully you, they can’t destroy you. As Les Brown says “other people’s opinions don’t have to become your reality.” When I first heard that quote it was a light bulb moment for me. You can be yourself. You can like the music you want, wear what you want, live the way that is right for you. Other people do not have some sort of divine authority to determine your worth.

That experience was the beginning of my understanding of resilience as “separating who you are from what happens to you.” I wasn’t one of the cool kids. In their minds I was loser, someone who, for whatever reason, was unacceptable to them. I won’t say it wasn’t soul crushing and often physically painful, but even then I realized — I’m still standing. Just because they try to destroy me, I’m still here. Their opinions and behaviors toward me do not define me.

I can’t say I was terribly resilient in those moments. I suffered. But I learned the lessons that ultimately built greater resilience.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

#1 Question the story you tell yourself about what events mean to your life. What we tell ourselves about an event is everything. It is how we give events meaning and it determines how we respond; either with resilience or in defeat. When we lost the business, the story I believed was that our life was over, we were being rejected and our years of effort were meaningless. Because of the meaning I initially gave that event, I was distraught to the point of severe depression when it ended. I was faced with a choice, either stay in despair or find new ground to stand on. It literally became a search to discover who I am as a worthy person, outside of the roles I fill or what I accomplish. Today I am much more objective about how I evaluate situations and people’s motives for behavior because I realize those things have nothing to do with me. I am much more confident in who I am, regardless of success, failures or other people’s opinions.

#2 Don’t let emotions run your life. Feelings are nothing more than messengers, telling you what is going on inside your soul. After the business loss I let feelings of depression determine my reality for a time. But the feelings aren’t the real problem, they are just coming to you with a message. If you learn to hear and act on the message, the feelings fade away. I don’t suffer with depression any longer. When those kinds of negative feelings arise, I can step back and question them, as I explain in the next tip.

#3 Control your thinking. Resilient people tend to be practical and rational. Resilient people can step back and objectively consider if thoughts like “my life is over” are objectively true. During my journey through depression I eventually got to the place where I could question self-defeating thoughts using a method I learned from Byron Katie, called The Work. It is essentially a practice of confronting beliefs with a series of questions that start with — Is that true? Can you be absolutely sure it is true? What else might be true?

Taking the time to pause in the midst of a chaotic situation and think carefully about what you are thinking is very grounding. It forces your brain to stop the hamster wheel of swirling, critical thoughts and engages your logical mind in finding solutions.

#4 Build a mental storehouse of success memories. Part of the reason it is easier for resilient people to persevere is they acknowledge and remember their past successes. We all have things we did well and times when we made it through a storm. Unfortunately it is all too common that we downplay our strengths and our value. If we don’t take the time to appreciate our wins, we don’t have a positive foundation to stand on in the face of trouble. With my client, Donna who I mentioned earlier, we set up a goal for her to go back over her entire life and for every 7 year time period she identified at least one major area where she succeed at something. I helped her create a habit of looking for and taking note of all the places she accomplished something because she wanted it, not just to take care of someone else.

#5 Set your goals around things you can control. My mistake was putting my future hopes in the hands of my family member. I obviously had no control over their ultimate decision. Resilient people set goals around things within their locus of control, things like building successful habits and attitudes. Those kinds of personal growth goals serve as a solid ground to stand on when chaos hits. The staff at the resource center had a goal setting session where I had them all set goals for the kinds of self-improvement habits they could implement each and every week.

Hitting those goals was something they could control even when challenges came up in other areas. It was a huge step toward empowering them to regain control of their own life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would gather 20,000 women from around the world and help them discover who they were created to be, beyond the roles they play and the needs they meet. Everyone has something of value to contribute to the world. When they make that contribution, not only are they stronger and more confident, they lift up others. Their work would inspire more people and the movement toward healthier interpersonal relationships would grow. Successful lives are built on strong relationships.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

I would love to connect with Michael Hyatt. He is a former editor at Tyndale house publishing and today is a thought leader in the area of leadership development. He is talented, passionate, and driven to make a difference while thoughtfully balancing his most important priorities. I am designing a planner system which will allow people to take a topic like resilience or one of many other topics relevant to today’s leaders, and be able to embed practical tips for improving in that area right into their weekly schedule. Since Michael recently came out with his own planner for leaders, I would love to brainstorm with him.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for that opportunity. People can find me at www.LifeInspiredInc.com

Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanascott/

Twitter @sueannescott

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

--

--

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor